Page 850 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 22 March 2017
work done to support members of SHOUT with this side of the chamber’s lack of interest in community groups. It is wrong. I am disappointed to hear her say that, and although this is a difficult issue for SHOUT it should not be conflated with broader lack of compassion from anyone in this place for vulnerable members of our community and for vulnerable members of our community who choose to come together and support themselves. I support the amendment to the motion.
MS LAWDER (Brindabella) (11.01): I am pleased to stand today in support of my colleague Ms Lee’s motion about support for SHOUT. It is a very important organisation. It serves as an umbrella organisation to support a large number of not-for-profit and community organisations working in the disability, chronic illnesses, chronic disease and chronic conditions space.
In a nutshell, I strongly believe that the ACT government must remain in this space. They cannot abrogate the responsibility for this important underpinning social infrastructure. Self-help groups generally grow from the ground up; they are not top-down groups. They grow in response to a very real need in our community. That is how many of these small groups came about in the first place.
Over time, governments, of all shapes and sizes and all jurisdictions, have indicated a preference to work with larger groups, often consortia. We saw that more recently in the foster care space when organisations were encouraged to form a consortium. Forming a consortium means that you can provide more efficient services, especially for very small organisations. It means you can share back-end processes like HR functions, finance functions, insurance, payroll—if you are lucky enough to be able to afford paid staff—servicing boards and managing volunteers.
What is sometimes misunderstood is that these very small organisations still have legal and fiduciary responsibilities. They must still meet the same standards as a board member of any board in our community. Whether you are registered with the Office of Regulatory Services or ASIC, your responsibilities as a board remain the same. So while SHOUT have adopted this efficient model to manage their back-end or back office processes—exactly what the government has urged the sector to do for many years—they must still act in a responsible way.
That is why I would commend the board of SHOUT for understanding, for example, that they cannot continue to run if they believe they will become insolvent. It is a core responsibility, as a board member, to understand your financial position. You would be abrogating your responsibilities if you continued to trade when you did not have the financial capacity to meet your bills. You cannot wait on the never-never for some grant to come through—maybe, perhaps. Who knows whether or not you are going to get the funding? You must look at the here and now of your financial position; otherwise you are legally negligent. I am sure the board members of SHOUT, as for any other organisation, do not want to be in that position. The self-help groups that we are talking about under the umbrella of SHOUT do blur the boundaries between disability and health. Irrespective of that, we in the ACT must support them.
The NDIS—as I think Minister Fitzharris or Minister Stephen-Smith has already said—was a good decision. I have been involved with the NDIS long before it was